In which we all pretend we’re Mary and Laura.

Last Friday I volunteered myself as tribute to chaperone Gracie’s class on their field trip to the Log Cabin Village. Only this class of nerdlings could make me look forward to a field trip with a bunch of third-graders. By “a bunch,” you realize that I would normally mean six. Six third-graders. But Ms. G. graciously offered to fold ten of her colleagues third-graders into our mix because a) her class is small, b) she had a parent with her (holla!), and c) together the two of us could handle twice as many kids if we had to. Even with our “guests,” I had a great time learning and was very impressed about how attentive and curious our group of students was.

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The Log Cabin Village is a group of about 20 buildings from all across north Texas that were moved to the Log Cabin Village. Men and women are dressed in character to teach visitors about how the settlers in our area lived in the mid- to late-1800s. The first cabin we visited was small; it looked to be about 10′ by 20′ (keeping in mind I am horrible with spatial reasoning). It showed the children both what one type of cottage looked like, and was also set up as a woodworker’s home (although the original tenant was not a woodworker). The children asked about the stove, whether every home had a second floor or loft for sleeping quarters, and how many people knew how to work wood like this family. We saw several homemade brooms, a wooden puppet on a stick, saw a spindle-making demonstration, learned about the different tools a woodworker would use, and saw how he could do everything without electricity. The children were most impressed by the fact that a family with ten children had lived in that tiny space, and with so little compared to how much “stuff” we’ve grown used to living with today.

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The second cabin we visited was the school. The man who was serving as our school master taught the children about customs in those days: how the boys were raised to treat ladies with respect and saw it as an honor to let the ladies walk first into the schoolhouse and leave first at recess and the end of the day; how the older boys would arrive early at the schoolhouse to fetch water in pails from a spring that was a half-mile away; how girls were seated on side of the school on benches, and boys on the other, regardless of what class they belonged to. The school teacher told the class about how the students weren’t allowed to smile or look around the classroom. He listed examples of homework that would be assigned, what kind of lunch the children would bring, and how many students would be in a classroom (there were 20 children old enough to attend school who lived within a 5-mile radius when our particular school house was build in the 1880s). Lastly, he taught the kids about discipline that would be administered in those days. Children could be rapped against their knuckles with a wooden stick, or paddled against their bottoms. They could also be sent to a bench in the corner of the classroom and made to wear a dunce hat. Gracie was chosen as the student who acted out a scene in which she had not prepared her memorization as she should have. She was sent to the dunce corner, served her time, and then as the teacher concluded his explanation he said not to worry, that he wouldn’t tell her mom or dad. Busted! The teacher gave me up and we all laughed. I really hope the man in the schoolhouse was a teacher in a past life because he had an incredible knack for talking to the children about things they would want to know, but without talking down to them.

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Next we traveled to the gristmill, one of three working gristmill left in north Texas. We were crunched for time and didn’t get to explore the rest of the village on our own, so as we passed the community garden and spice drying shack, and the smokehouse, I tried to explain to the kids how one would have been used. Extra points were given the nerdlings who recalled that Ma Ingalls had used a hollowed-out tree trunk as their smokehouse. The gristmill was…interesting. The children learned about how corn and wheat was ground down into grain, and about the different types of corn, and why some tortillas are different colors and taste slightly different. They also learned about how the gristmill was powered by the water wheel and about transference of power (I told you they were nerdlings – they understood every bit of that lesson). I just wish Mr. Gristmill had’ve been less…abhorant of change? Is that how to phrase it? He was certainly from a different generation and had been taught differently than our children, but did he really have to tell them that he grew up thinking our school system was awful because it was a public school and he taught in a private school? Or that children were mostly ugly, noisy creatures? Or how he kept referring to our principal as a man who was the End All Be All (obviously he must be a man if he was principal, in this guy’s mind). You have no idea how hard it was to loudly correct him that our principal was a LADY, thankyouverymuch.

We should have finished our tour with a candle-making demonstration, but the Log Cabin Village administration had messed up our time slot a bit and told their staff to take an early lunch so as to be back for the last group. So there wasn’t anyone tending the candle cabin. Ms. G. ran the kids through in small groups and gave an off-the-cuff lesson before herding everyone back to the bus lines.

It was a short field trip and there was so much left for us to explore! Ms. G. and I may have plotted bringing our six back on our own sometime. And if that doesn’t happen, I know Gracie and Bee and I will be back. Maybe even in our Little House bonnets.

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One Response to “In which we all pretend we’re Mary and Laura.”

  1. Kathy Says:

    Fun! That sounds a lot like our Greenfield Village.

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